A Digital Prescription

Self-evaluation of your SEO performance is not a singular
activity but a continuous one

Photo: Ontario SEO partners Kim and Wayne Atkinson

IN THE FAST-MOVING world of digital presence and search optimization, it can sometimes seem like a race to the ­bottom. Generating the most clicks—by any means possible—has often been used as a gold standard by which to measure a company’s financial success online.

Wayne Atkinson, partner at digital marketing firm Ontario SEO, says with a customer’s path to purchase now taking place almost entirely online, and in many cases on mobile devices, putting care and thought into your company’s digital presence isn’t just a wise strategy—it’s imperative.

“The reality is that if you don’t have a strong digital presence when a potential client starts doing their research, you don’t exist,” says Atkinson. “And if you don’t exist, it is unlikely that they will be buying from you.”

But it’s not solely about visibility, cautions Atkinson. Quality of experience is paramount, too. “To generate leads and gain new clients, it is important to not just be visible, but to add value for as much of that online journey as possible,” he says. “Failing to do so could mean losing a future client to your competitor before you have had the chance to have a conversation with them.”

“It doesn’t matter whether you are in a B2B or B2C market, your target clients are doing more of their pre-purchase research online than ever before, and probably on a mobile device” — Wayne Atkinson

According to Atkinson, when done correctly, SEO (search engine optimization) and SEM (search engine marketing) delivers a steady stream of new enquiries and/or online sales, ensuring a full sales funnel. A lack of a digital strategy, ­meanwhile, often results in a steady decline of both new and repeat business.

“It doesn’t matter whether you are in a B2B or B2C market, your target clients are doing more of their pre-purchase research online than ever before, and probably on a mobile device,” he says. “If you aren’t visible at the research phase, you won’t be on the shortlist. And if you don’t add value throughout the sales pipeline, it is unlikely that you will win their business.”

Improving SEO performance, however, is not as simple as throwing money at Google Ads and optimizing your website—SEO is a tool that just about every other business is leveraging, as well.

“When having conversations with business owners, the expectation is often that optimization gets done and then you are at the top of the search rankings,” Atkinson says. “The reality is that the amount of work required is usually determined by their online competitors, both direct and indirect. To be more visible than your competitors—usually simplified as ranking higher—you have to do a better job than they have been doing, and if they have been doing it for years then you are going to need to be aggressive and put in a lot of work.”

For businesses looking to enhance their digital presence, there are plenty of options, but Atkinson counsels caution: SEO and digital optimization tend to change frequently as best practices are adjusted.

“There is a lot of misinformation or information that is ­outdated and no longer relevant,” he says. “The official Google blogs are always a good resource, especially the Webmaster Central Blog, which has good best practice information and updates on Google Search Console, which in itself is a fantastic tool for website owners. The Google AdWords and Analytics blogs are also very useful.”

In the end, Atkinson says your success will depend on how competitive your market is. “If you are focusing only on organic SEO, then expect it to take some time. In a competitive market, you could be looking at six to 12 months, maybe longer. In situations like these, incorporating paid search, like Google Ads, into your strategy will generate revenue in the short term, taking pressure off your organic SEO strategy.”